Happy meals from Reservations-To-Go

Fast, fresh, delicious takeout made with skill in Seminole Heights.

click to enlarge DAMN GOOD SAMMIES: Executive Chef Anthony Catania at work. - Shanna Gillette
Shanna Gillette
DAMN GOOD SAMMIES: Executive Chef Anthony Catania at work.

OMG. I’m stuck driving carpool. The kids are screaming. My honey had a bad day at work. There’s a pile of dirty laundry at home. The fridge is EMPTY and there’s no time to shop!

WTF am I going to do?

Reeelaaaax. An affordable, fresh, healthy, gourmet dinner is at your fingertips at a Seminole Heights storefront just off I-275. Reservations Gourmet-To-Go offers a large range of sandwiches, salads, soups, desserts and “pop it in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes” chilled entrées.

There’s a steady flow at lunchtime, as hungry folks weave their way past the few sidewalk and eat-in tables to view the entrée and dessert display. Some are just there to line up because the secret is out: The sandwiches are shockingly good. Why can’t everybody do this? Meaty thick-sliced portobello is sautéed in garlic and olive oil with a touch of crushed red pepper, then finished with a splash of Cabernet and served on a crackling, crisp warm baguette slathered with creamy aioli and loaded with lettuce and Fontina cheese.

The Tampa cheesesteak features strips of juicy filet mignon sautéed with onions and mushrooms served on a baked hoagie roll with tangy horseradish mayo, lettuce, and an unexpected blue cheese drizzle. This is not the cheesesteak of my youth, but rather an adult version for the not so new century — and it is delicious. The sandwiches are accompanied by terrific coleslaw flecked with purple cabbage and bright orange carrot slivers in a creamy sauce that strikes just the right balance of sweet and sour.

The house soup is made of lentils, onion, garlic, tomato and celery simmered with white wine and, at least in the batch I tasted, too many herbs that overpower the gentle legumes. The creamy celery soup fares better — with a nice balance of thin celery slices and black seeds peeking out of a comforting, opaque broth that is just on the cusp of being overly salted.

Each entrée comes with two sides chosen from these soups, veggies or a salad of fresh greens with scallion, capers, tomato, carrots, and celery in the tasty, light house vinaigrette that’s conveniently available in bottles at the checkout. The veggies include a beautiful medley of fresh, crisp green beans, sweet carrots and steamed potatoes sautéed with garlic and olive oil or cut green broccoli crowns, also sautéed in olive oil, garlic and a touch of salt with crushed red and black peppers. It’s enough to make your kids eat their vegetables.

The lone starch is made from hand-smashed Yukon gold potatoes with butter, garlic, and, according to the menu, a quartet of dairy: sour cream, buttermilk, cream, and milk. Mashed potatoes are, like BBQ, entirely personal. These have enough body to be Olympian, but I’d like them to be a bit bolder with the garlic, which is too subtle, and creamier. RG2G’s are true to the source, which is fine, but they don’t melt in your mouth — an easy fix with all the bounty of the dairy cow at their disposal. And where’s the tang? You wouldn’t guess that sour cream and buttermilk were in the mix; I want potatoes that are as fearless as the sandwiches.

The anchor of the entrée menu is a baked meat loaf of ground beef chuck mixed with eggs, cheese, breadcrumbs, tomato, herbs, white wine, and mirepoix (that French holy trinity of carrots, celery and onion). I found it bland, but a dining companion happily wolfed it down, and you can always add your own condiments to taste at home.

Entrée specials are posted on the web weekly and have featured a pork loin pounded scaloppine thin and sautéed in a tasty sauce of fresh tomato, basil, garlic and Parmesan. Also, sweet banana peppers stuffed with a creamy mix of ricotta, Fontina and Parmesan flavored with a touch of garlic, basil, and seasoned fresh breadcrumbs, then roasted until the flavors meld and the peppers soften. Both are much, much better than their frozen brethren, but still seem like really high-quality leftovers. Luckily, with a half hour’s notice you can pick up an entrée hot from the kitchen as long as you show up before they close at 6 p.m. The portions are ample and can easily feed two non-teenagers at a great price point.

The cherry cheesecake is fine, but no match for the dense chocolate passion torte laced with whiskey. However, it’s the carrot cake that is pure perfection. The deliciously moist cake combines spice, carrots, plump raisins and traditional soft, sweet cream cheese frosting that’s enough to knock your socks off.

Hey, it’s Florida. With cake like this, who needs socks anyway?

About The Author

Jon Palmer Claridge

Jon Palmer Claridge—Tampa Bay's longest running, and perhaps last anonymous, food critic—has spent his life following two enduring passions, theatre and fine dining. He trained as a theatre professional (BFA/Acting; MFA/Directing) while Mastering the Art of French Cooking from Julia Child as an avocation. He acted...
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